Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bucket Races!

What do you do if you're a 9-year-old boy with too much energy who has been asked to watch your baby brother while Mommy makes dinner? Why, you put said baby brother in a Duplo bucket and push him, laughing and squealing, throughout the apartment. And what do you do if you're the resident 3-year-old? You dump out ALL the wooden train tracks and climb into THAT bucket, calling your 8-year-old brother to push you around too, of course! And voila! The Great Bucket Race is born!!

Enjoy!! The boys sure did!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Woo Hoo! I Did It! :)

Pulled out my old sewing machine (that was gathering dust) and followed an on-line pattern to make a Mei Tai for Josiah, that is!

I've been wanting to make one of these ever since a bunch of ladies on Momys made them for a sew-along well over a YEAR ago. But you know me...I had too many other things to do (and I tend to procrastinate) so I never got around to it. But now that Josiah is at an awkward size for my ring sling (which I can't find, anyway!) I decided to go ahead and give it a try!

I used this site for the pattern and instructions. Even though I haven't sewn anything in oh, about 7 years, I happen to have a stash of not one but two big underbed-type bins full of fabric. I chose a piece that was neutral and big enough, and got to work! It's not even remotely close to perfect, but it turned out sturdy and serviceable and I'm happy with it as a first attempt. Now that I know I can do it, I want to get some nice fabric in a pattern I really like and make another one!

Unfortunately, while I can follow a pattern and sew well enough, I know NOTHING about trouble-shooting my machine. My tension (I think?) is all wonky, so some of my stitches were coming out funky and loopy. I can NOT figure out how to fix it!! Waaaaa!! So Mom, if you happen to read this, please be prepared to help me get my machine running all nicely and smoothly when you come to visit me this spring!! Thank you! :)

So here are the pictures! Josiah seems to enjoy being in it, which of course is a huge plus!!

My adorable cozy little sweetie-pie!!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

If You Want Something Done Right...

Apparently you've got to do it yourself!!

Hello family and Mommy's internet friends, this is Josiah. I'm the youngest of the bunch here, and I try my very best to be happy and easy going almost all the time. I make very few demands, really, so long as I'm fed several times a day, get my poopies changed, and get plenty of hugs and kisses from my parents and brothers. So I just don't understand why, since I'm so adorable and all, my mommy would walk away from me in the middle of a meal to go get something for someone else in the kitchen!! But look! She left the bowl and that purple spoon thingy WITHIN REACH! She's never done that before! I guess it's time to figure this thing out...I mean a guy's gotta eat, after all... distracted mommy or not!

Hmmm, this sorta works, but most of the good stuff is running down my chin and onto my bib...

Here we go, getting better!

Nope...this definitely doesn't go here!

This end doesn't work very well, either...

I think I'm finally getting the hang of this! Yay!

Look everyone...See food! Get it? See food, sea food...oh, nevermind!

All done! I sure am glad I figured that out! Now next time mommy leaves me mid-meal I won't starve after long as she leaves my food within reach again!

With lots of love and sticky kisses,

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deep in the Heart of Texas!

Since nothing exciting, unusual, or particularly interesting happened around here today, I decided this would be as good a time as any to post some of the pictures from our trip to Texas last month. After all, you all know I can't spend 3 weeks on the road without taking about a million pictures, and you know that I know you're just dying to see them! These are from the first full day we were in Austin. Jeremy had meetings at his offices next to the University of Texas all day, so the boys and I killed time by exploring the campus. It was a blast seeing the campus through the eyes of my children...after all, I did spend, ahem, a long period of my early adult life here!

The boys posing in front of the UT tower. I had my camera settings all wonky (accidentally, of course!) so some of these photos are really bright...

Sliding down the dividers between the granite stairs in front of the know, in all my years here, it NEVER occurred to me to try that. It looks like tons of fun, doesn't it?

In front of Littlefield Fountain...Jordan, of course, is giving us his best goofy smile for the camera!

This wasn't here when I was a student...and it's amazingly cool! It is some kind of art sculpture that you're supposed to walk through, feel, and "experience." It is made of long yellow rubber ropes hanging from a metal structure...4 poles inside the noodley things and a square frame above. My boys thought it was great for playing "George of the Jungle," and no, they didn't do a very good job watching out for the "trees." Two of them crashed into the metal support poles inside. OUCH!!

Josiah bundled up in the stroller...

When the boys had had enough of swinging through the rubber spaghetti, we headed over to see the dinosaur tracks next to the Texas Memorial Museum. In all my years at UT, I had never made it into this museum, although I walked by it almost daily when I was an art's next to the Fine Arts building. Sadly, we wouldn't go in this time, was 10 minutes to closing time when we got there. The boys enjoyed looking at the dinosaur tracks, though, and playing on these things:

The best I can figure is that they're replicas of dinosaur vertebrae, but even then they look way to big to me, even for a very large dinosaur. Anybody have any other ideas as to what these may be?

Here is a statue of a saber-toothed cat outside the entrance to the museum. The boys enjoyed "playing" with this guy...

Joey stuck his fingers in the cat's nose, and I joked with him "Ewww, you're going to get prehistoric boogers on your fingers!"

At which point he pulled out his fingers, showed them to me and replied, "No, Mommy, no boogers...see?"

Jonathan grabbing the cat's teeth...

I talked the boys into posing for me in a massive oak tree around the corner...

Then, of course, all who were able had to climb in it!

I think Jonathan must be part monkey!

I really enjoyed taking the boys all around my old stomping grounds. We've taken them to the campus before, for different events or just to wander around, but for some reason it seemed much more special now that we're so far removed from it in New York City!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Homemade Sourdough attempt :)

Well, I told you I was going to let you follow along with my bread baking adventures (or subject you to them, depending on how you look at it, lol!) so here is my latest attempt. I surfed one of my current favorite recipe sites, Allrecipes, and found this recipe for sourdough starter. It uses 3 ingredients: flour, water, and yeast, which sounded easy enough. I mixed it up last Monday, and "fed" it more water and flour, along with a little pinch of sugar, each day until last Thursday, when I tried making bread with it for the first time. I used this recipe for the bread. Now, since both the starter and the bread recipe call for yeast, I am pretty much cheating here...come to find out "real" sourdough starters use just flour, water, and natural yeasts that fall out of the air or something...but who are we kidding? I am a mom of 5 boys under 10; I need all the help I can get! I don't feel the least bit guilty for cheating on this one!!

Anyway, back to my bread...the first attempt made a decent loaf of bread, but not very sourdough-y. Which is fine, since I'd read that it takes a while for your starter to really develop good flavor. I tried my second batch yesterday. It smelled wonderful while it was baking and the flavor was equally good--nice and sourdough-y tasting. I even think it looks pretty! I got a nice crispy/slightly chewy crust by putting a pan of water in the oven and spraying water in there a few times early on to make steam, but the bread itself (inside the crust) was very tender, not at all chewy with great big holes in it like the stuff I've bought at the bakery. Overall, though, not bad! Everyone has enjoyed eating it!!

Here are my 2 loaves from yesterday right when they came out of the oven...

Here's a close-up of one of the loaves...

I have to share a story with you that I thought was funny. When Jeremy first saw my starter (it lived loosely covered on my counter for the first 4 days of its life) he said "So THAT'S how you make sourdough bread? Okay, now you've RUINED it for me forever!" He thought the starter was about the grossest thing he'd seen/heard of in a while! I have to say, though, that he's been enjoying the bread just as much as everybody else! :)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Having Fun in Our Winter Wonderland!

Here are some pictures from Riverside Park earlier this month. We love Riverside Park! It is so conveniently close (like right across the street!) and has several playgrounds that the boys really enjoy. And when it's covered with a layer of nice slippery ice, it's even more fun for our boys!

Joshua, Jonathan, and Jordan "ice skating" (they're in their sneakers) down the frozen sidewalk...

Joey trying to stay upright...he wasn't quite as fond of sliding along the ice...

So I took him to the swings while his brothers and Daddy had a contest to see who could throw ice chunks and hit a tree on the other side of the wall. Here's my upside-down monkey boy...

About to go down the slide...

The big boys soon joined us on the playscape. Jordan really was having fun, I promise! He just didn't want to be asked to smile for the picture, the little stinker!

Here comes Jonathan!

Sadly, the snow and ice have all melted away now. Hopefully, we will get more before winter is over. After spending most of our lives in Texas, we are really enjoying the "real" winter here! I daresay we've even become accustomed to the cold. It's funny, because in Texas weather in the 40s was really cold to us, but now that we've been in temps in the teens and 20s, when it's hit the 40s lately, it feels downright balmy, and the kids don't even want to wear their coats!

Check back tomorrow for the next installment in our bread adventures...I'm sure you can't wait! :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home School Update

Well, folks, there will be no post full of photos today. While some of you might not mind this too much, I'm still convinced that my children's grandparents only come here to see pictures of their cute little boys. I'm sure I could post nonsense like "Blah blah blah (photo), blah blahbitty blah (photo), and they'd all be quite content. :)

I have to admit that the reason why there are no photos is because I am feeling just plain lazy tonight. But since I told you I was going to blog more regularly, I'm going to at least muster up the energy to type. So, I give you the home school update.

Joshua (4th grade) continues to move along nicely in his studies, although he has become my A-number-one-champion dawdler. We're working hard on that! He continues to love reading, and has finished The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers from the Lord of the Rings series in the past 2 months. Right now, he's working on a Mark Twain collection and really enjoying it. He is also making good progress in his piano lessons. I'm hoping to make a little video of him playing soon to post here. He is enjoying medieval history, and his zoology course for science. Overall he loves to learn, and is very creative!

Jonathan (2nd grade) continues to amaze me with his ability to pick up and master math concepts. He has just finished our 3rd grade math text (multiplication) and is several lessons into our 4th grade book (division) and hasn't missed a beat. He already knows how to do it, with very little input from me. I think his goal is to pass up his older brother, who is near the end of the 4th grade book! Jonathan's reading is coming along nicely, and although he doesn't love to read as much as his brother does, he still reads a good amount. He's currently working through the Chronicles of Narnia books. He really enjoys science, and tells people he wants to be a scientist when he grows up. He's taking the same zoology course as Joshua. He is learning to play the piano as well and practices pretty diligently, and is hoping to start learning to play the guitar this spring...he received a nice guitar for Christmas!

Jordan (kindergarten) is more than halfway through our phonics book, and is excited about learning to read! We've also just added 1st grade math to his school schedule, and will be adding 1st grade grammar in March. Because of the age cut-off in NY, he will be a 1st grader this next school year--starting in July! I've decided to go ahead and introduce those 2 subjects slowly this spring, so he's used to a little bit of a school schedule already when we give him a full course load in July. He's really excited to be doing math so far...hopefully his enthusiasm will continue!

Joseph continues to make it his business to distract and disrupt his brothers' efforts as much and as often as possible! He is learning to count to 10, and almost has all the basic colors down! He watches Leap Frog Letter Factory (a phonics DVD) on TV a couple times a week, mostly to keep him occupied for half an hour, so he is learning his letters and letter sounds as well!

I have to mention Josiah as well, although he doesn't do anything school-related yet! He is on the move and constantly exploring anything and he really is learning tons, too!

Monday, February 16, 2009

My Latest Hobby

Back when I had only 1 or 2 children (and therefore more time), I had several hobbies that I enjoyed doing on a somewhat regular basis. I scrapbooked, made jewelry, sewed cute decorative things (mostly for my sister, lol!) did cross-stitching, etc. to name a few. While I would love to pick some of those things back up one of these days, they are just difficult to do with 5 little boys running around, and, quite frankly, none of those things are terribly useful to my family right now.

I have taught myself to knit recently and picked up crochet again, mostly because we spend so much time traveling and those are easy to do in a car. But I've been missing having a "useful" hobby that I could really enjoy AND bless my family with at the same time!

I really enjoy cooking for my family and others, and I'm also always interested in saving money...I figure if my husband is the one working to earn the money, the best way I can help out is to spend it as efficiently as possible! I've also been trying to do more and more cooking from scratch, both for financial purposes and health's nice to know exactly what's going into all the food we eat! So although I've been cooking for a long time now, this month I've decided to embark on a new that I'm excited about because I know it will be a fun learning experience for me, AND bless my wonderful family at the same time!

I'm teaching myself (with help from all over the internet, of course!) to make all the bread we like to eat! Now, I've been making our basic sandwich bread for about 2 years now. I rarely bought sandwich bread at the store the last year or so we were in Austin, and I've finally gotten back to making all our sandwich bread in the last few months here. But I've still been buying at the store what I'll call the "fancy" sourdough bread, pitas, bagels, tortillas, french/italian bread, etc. My new goal is to learn how to make all those things at home. I think it will be fun to learn, and the satisfaction of knowing my family enjoys eating them AND saving so much money over buying them at the store should make the endeavor well worth the effort! I'm also going to include my dear children in the fun, and of course chronicle our kitchen adventures here on our blog!

Today we made bagels. But before we get to that, I must pause to show you two of my adorable "kitchen helpers!"
**Disclaimer** I scrubbed my tiled kitchen floor just before taking these pictures. After all, I couldn't show the entire blogosphere (or even just the 6 or 7 people who actually read this) what my kitchen floor really looks like usually. But wouldn't you know it, my silly mottled tile comes out looking downright DIRTY in the pictures...even though it's NOT! Something is inherently unfair about this...I scrubbed for nuthin', LOL! **end of disclaimer**

Here are Josiah and Jordan hanging out in our kitchen. As you can see, my kitchen is only about 30" wide. I've become quite adept at hurdling little people while cooking at the same time!

Aren't they just the cutest?

Look who's crawling, and quite proud of himself!!

Now, on to our bagels! We used this recipe. The only change we made was to use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white flour. Next time I might cut down the salt a little.
Here is Jordan (or Jordan's hand, more specifically) stirring water, sugar, and yeast together.

Jordan loves to help me cook. He wants to do everything by himself. He did a pretty good job measuring the flour...

Here he is stirring the salt into some of the flour...

Watching the dough mix...

Here's our ball of dough, ready to rise! I turn on my oven for a couple minutes, then turn it off and put the dough in. It rises for me really well that way, as opposed to out on the counter.

After the dough rose to double in volume, I punched it down and cut it into 12 chunks. Jordan and Jonathan rolled them into balls for me...

Here the balls are "resting." When Joey came in the kitchen to see what we were doing, Jordan yelled at him, "Don't touch the's sleeping!"

After letting the balls rest for 5 minutes (Jonathan minded the timer), it was time to shape them. Jordan and Jonathan successfully pulled holes in the center of most of the bagels. Joey mashed, squished, poked, and otherwise mangled the one he tried, but he was proud of his efforts nonetheless.

Here they are resting again while we got the water boiling...

Now doesn't this look like a sweet little boy who NEVER gets in trouble for anything at all? Just look at that angelic grin...NOT! :) You can usually tell by looking at Joey what our previous meal was...yes, our dinner included spaghetti sauce...chicken parmesan really, but he's wearing the tomatoes!

Watching the bagels boil. They have to boil for 45 seconds, flipping halfway. So we all counted out loud for each batch. Gotta get those math skills in there!

Jordan is absolutely "all boy!" This is what I got when I told them to look at the camera and smile!

Here they are, boiled, brushed with an egg wash, and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Then we popped them in the oven for 35 minutes...

And voila! Success! Don't they look nice?

Everybody gobbled them down happily, with a little cream cheese...

Even Daddy liked them!

Well, I'm happy to say that our first attempt at making our own bagels was a success, not to mention a lot of fun! Next time we're going to try adding cinnamon and raisins. We can't wait! Stay tuned for our next bread-baking challenge...I'm sure we'll be trying something new later this week!
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